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Vote on extending unemployment insurance scheduled for this afternoon

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) called on her colleagues to support an extension of unemployment insurance in a speech on the Senate floor this morning. In her remarks Shaheen highlighted the consequences that the failure to extend unemployment insurance has already had on the economy and Granite State families; to date New Hampshire has lost an estimated $1.8 million worth of economic output as a result of lost emergency benefits.

Senator Shaheen’s remarks as prepared for delivery are included below:

Mr. President, I came to the floor because later today the Senate will vote on a short-term extension of emergency unemployment benefits for the thousands of New Hampshire citizens, over a million throughout the country, who are being hurt right now by the failure of Congress to act. 

I have heard from a number of New Hampshire constituents since unemployment insurance expired back in December. They make the case much for eloquently than I can about why we need to extend these unemployment benefits. I want to read some excerpts from some of those letters.

One of my constituents, a 62-year-old woman from Windham, New Hampshire, explained that despite her best efforts, she will be one of the many long term-unemployed without any unemployment benefits if she doesn’t find a job by March. 

She began working at age eight delivering papers with her brother, put herself through college, and earned a master’s degree with the help of her employer.  She wrote “I'm not too proud to do any honest job.  I'm losing my house and can't afford to pay my mortgage any longer.  There are so many of us out there.”

A woman from Windham, New Hampshire wrote to me.  She is 55 years old, and has held a job since she was 16. Last August, she was laid off in a merger, and has been actively seeking a job in her health care field.  She explained that her unemployment check has helped her pay for her essential living expenses.  She and her sister take care of their 90 year-old parents in their home, and this income is critical to their care. 

A 58 year-old woman from Merrimack wrote that she lost her job in May 2013, and has had nine interviews, but no offers.  Without unemployment assistance, she will not be able to afford her car payment, her mortgage, or food and utilities.  

A constituent wrote to me explaining that after 29 years as a teacher, her job was eliminated.  She has been on unemployment since June, and has applied to nearly 100 jobs. Think about getting up every day trying to figure out where to apply just to have a shot at getting back to work.  Her savings are exhausted and she is on the verge of losing her house since her unemployment benefits - her only source of income- have expired. 

She wrote: “This seems unfair to me having worked hard and been a taxpayer into the system all of my working life. I fail to see how not extending benefits will be beneficial to me and the 1.3 million other Americans...especially in light of an already fragile economy.  Please do your best to remember those of us who never planned to have to depend on unemployment for this long but who have fallen victims to these times.”

I did a telephone town hall and heard from thousands of people across New Hampshire. One of the people I heard from was a woman named Kathy from Danbury. She told me that she had worked since she was 14, and she’s now out of a job. Her unemployment benefits have expired, and she doesn’t know what she’s going to do.

You know, we need to think about Kathy and all of the people who we’re hearing from in our offices. We’re supposed to represent the people who need help across this country. My constituents are exactly right – we are threatening the fragile economic recovery by failing to extend unemployment insurance. 

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the expiration of unemployment insurance will cost the economy 310,000 jobs.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that each dollar we spend on extending unemployment insurance generates about $1.50 in economic growth.

And we learned this week that failing to act has already drained more than $2.2 billion from the economy, including $1.8 million from New Hampshire.  Not to mention, all of the people whose personal stories are tragic because they want to work. They’re out of a job through no fault of their own, and we need to provide them with some assistance while they try and get back on their feet so they don’t lose their home, so they don’t lose their car, so they can put food on the table.

I urge my colleagues to come together today. It is time for us to act to support an extension of unemployment insurance.  I certainly hope we are going to do that.

I yield the floor.